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Sunday, May 22, 2016

TAKEDOWNS & why you should use them

So there's two schools of thought on starting your BJJ match: Going for the takedown or pulling guard. Takedowns are--in my mind--the most important part of your game that is widely overlooked and neglected. Sure, it is easy to just pull guard and start to work off of your back to sweep or submit someone, but let's entertain the notion of takedowns and why you need to work them into your game and drill them more,

Greco-Roman Wrestling suplex
AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File

Let's just put this out there: most people shy away from the takedown because it's scary and they're afraid; and that's fair. Takedowns are serious business. Getting takendown is scary. You could end up on the bad end of a Greco-Roman suplex like in the picture above, your mom could be watching, and your professor will (undoubtedly) turn to see your match just in that moment, and you could have to live in that world of embarrassment and shame. That could happen. Actually, that will happen if you don't start training takedowns because part of learning them is also learning how to defend against them. Think about it in a jiu jitsu sense where you're training guard passing with your training partner. When they're passing,you're able to sense--and feel--when your partner applies pressure, how they move into the technique, and, in drilling it, you pick up some defense to it. Takedowns are not any different. ("If you know the way broadly, you see it in all things."- Miyamoto Musashi)

So the first step in "not being embarrassingly slammed to the mat" is learning how to embarrassingly slam someone into the mat. That doesn't necessarily mean good ol' fashioned American Wrestling--or Greco-Roman--but judo and sambo work, too!

Another great thing about takedowns is that you get points for them in competition; two points to be specific. EVERY match starts standing. You will need to get the fight to the ground. You may as well get it there with two points in your back pocket and let the match start from a dominate position, right? If you're a guard player, and like working off of your back, why not still get the takedown and transition to guard? Sure it might be difficult, but you still have your two points. And no kidding, one time I saw a "guard guy" get the takedown, score the points, then bail out on the top position just to pull guard when the guy got up. Different strokes for different folks, I guess, but the point here is that there's a good advantage to getting the takedown and moving into the match with points on the board.



My favorite aspect of takedowns is the psychological toll it takes on your competitor. To revisit the previous scenario, if you secure a takedown on your opponent (hypothetically a Greco-Roman belly to back suplex (see #WWEBJJ and listen to Verbal Tap Podcast for more fun on that front)) now they're the ones dealing with their professor and mom being disappointed, being embarrassed and down two points. I'm not saying that we all need to get out there and embarrass our worthy opponents, but instead putting all of the discomfort that takedowns give you onto them. Psychologically, that's a lot to rebound from. Obviously competitors do it, it can be done. But in the wild and wonderful world of White Belt BJJ, it might be (could be) asking a lot from an unseasoned competitor. Don't put yourself at that disadvantage. Get that takedown, get those two points, put your opponent's back against the proverbial wall and the literal mat.

Determining what takedown will work best for you can sometimes be a rough choice. Some people like the wrestling approach--because of its straight-forward nature and effectiveness--while others prefer judo throws and other "non-wrestling" things. I think the only way to decide is to try it all. Develop your game in a way that whatever takedown you work in will play well to the ground game you're already using. There's not a great reason to belly-to-back suplex someone if you stink off the back, ya dig? So maybe look for a takedown where you may land in side control, or mount--or whatever other dominate position you might favor more for your own individual jiu jitsu game.


Georges St. Pierre might be the master of the modern day takedown. While that statement is arguable, what isn't arguable is that GSP dominated his competition by taking them to the ground, at will, and keeping them there while scoring offensive points (in MMA)  to win, re-win, and retain his UFC championship in a fashion that made people hate him. Sure, GSP was the king of being a "wet blanket" to opponents, but no one could stop it. The highlight reel above (credit to whomever) is a great illustration of how amazing he was. Keep in mind a couple of things when you watch this: GSP didn't wrestle in high school, watch how GSP doesn't give up on the takedown when the initial shot doesn't work, and finally, GSP was an amazing athlete; so let's not get delusional and think that all of what he does is possible as you venture into takedowns. But it's not impossible to get that good; and that's part of what all of this is about--getting better.


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